Stellar cool-climate wines, seasonal local produce given a serious gourmet spin and even happiness in bowl - no wonder this picturesque region is a breakout star of the dining scene.
Though barely 20 minutes from the South Australian capital, the Adelaide Hills feels a world away from the suburban plains and grid-like arrangement of the CBD. Here, winding roads trace the undulating hills, while thick bushland pauses only for patchworks of orchards, vineyards and pastoral land. Many of the towns have a charming European feel, thanks to the early Prussian and English settlers who made this home from the late 1830s. But it was pioneering winemakers who really put this region on the map, tagging it an ideal spot for growing grapes – particularly varietals like pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz – when they arrived in the 1970s. And while wine is what the Hills are still most famous for today, some new arrivals seem set to shake that up – acclaimed chefs and producers, who are busy driving the region’s reputation as a gourmet destination. Here are 10 of the best restaurants and eateries to check out now.
For breakfast: Fred Eatery
With its rich, full-bodied coffee and menu of tricked-up comfort food, this bright and contemporary café is your morning go-to. Daily blackboard specials keep the offering interesting but locals go into meltdown if staples like Frenchy French Toast and Happiness in a Bowl! (that’s barbecued pork belly, kimchi, chilli caramel and omelette with a pea and mint salad) disappear.
220 Mount Barker Road, Aldgate
For a long lunch: Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard
This vineyard restaurant’s success comes down to three things: award-winning wines, an innovative seasonal menu overseen by ex-Ritz London chef Adam Bowden and expansive decks that overlook the vines of Lenswood. The five-course tasting menu, on offer from Thursday to Sunday, is excellent value.
166 Harris Road, Lenswood
For Italian: Lot 100
The Hills’ newest venture is not a single cellar door but a mighty multi-brand collaboration that brings together Mismatch Brewing Co., Adelaide Hills Distillery, The Hills Cider Company, Vinteloper wines and Ashton Valley Fresh juices. Floor-to-ceiling windows and an industrial aesthetic create an airy setting in the tasting space/restaurant, while sprawling lawns and deck tables outside are perfect for families. In the kitchen, Adelaide dough-master Tom Bubner and ex-Orana chef Shannon Fleming craft sensational woodfired pizzas and other delicious Italo-inspired fare from locally sourced produce.
Lot 100, Chambers Road, Hay Valley
For Asian fusion: Clover + Stone at Howard Vineyard
The shaded deck at Howard Vineyard makes it an idyllic place to spend a Sunday afternoon, while the set-course lunch banquet ups the ante with a seasonal feast featuring dishes such as seared salmon tataki with wasabi mayo, crispy pork and kimchi dumpling, and beef salad with Vietnamese bun-cha dressing.
Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne
For Japanese: Yuki in the Hills
A rollcall of authentic Japanese specialities shine at this Aldgate eatery: succulent handmade pork gyoza, crunchy bites of light tempura and regional hits such as okonomiyaki (savoury omelette-style pancakes). The real winner, though, is the fresh, precision-cut sushi and sashimi. Let the knowledgeable staff guide you through the selection of sake, local wines and highballs to accompany your meal.
2a Strathalbyn Road, Aldgate; (08) 7226 5767
For upscale pub fare: Crafers Hotel
The French-inspired bistro at the beautifully restored Crafers pub is always buzzing. Chef Stéphane Brizard, who took over last August, has made his mark with dishes “inspired by my childhood growing up on a farm”. Seasonal signatures include salmon coulibiac – a fish pie with mushroom, spinach and rice in puff pastry – and pan-seared veal fillet with king prawns, béarnaise sauce and pommes mousseline.
8 Main Street, Crafers
For modern share plates: The Summertown Aristologist
When this low-key establishment opened in 2016, it quickly became a darling among the food set. The menu, overseen by chef Oliver Edwards, changes weekly and is both fiercely seasonal and highly local. Dishes read like a gastronome’s shopping list (broccoli, lardo, kimchi-roasted sunflowers; cavatelli, porcini, corn; snapper, coriander and last summer’s zucchini vinegar) and are full of flavour. A natural-focused wine list and communal tables complete the picture.
1097 Greenhill Road, Summertown
For high tea: Udder Delights
High tea at a cheesery? Trust us. Udder Delights, on the main drag in Hahndorf, serves one of the best high teas in the state. There’s a range of savoury and sweet morsels, such as goat’s curd and caramelised onion tarts and raspberry cheesecake, accompanied by a glass of local sparkling wine. In the fridges, pick up goodies to take away – cheeses, charcuterie, crackers, dips, olives, relishes and more.
91a Main Street, Hahndorf
For dessert: Red Cacao
The signature Chocolate and Coffee Experience at this chocolatier/café, tucked away in a Stirling laneway, functions as a mini tasting – or choose from more than 10 different hot chocolates, as well as cakes, pastries, waffles and other treats. Need something to bring home? The range of chocolates, truffles and pralines make excellent gifts.
Shop 3, 41 Mount Barker Road, Stirling